Meet Egypt’s ‘One Man’ Supporter
Ali Sbaey is a very popular face on television screens around the world. He has travelled the length and breadth of the world as a football enthusiast. And what makes him stand out in any crowd, particularly in stadiums, is his trademark musical instrument known in Arabic as Aud, his swinging body and infectious toothpaste smiles.
The 51-year-old Egyptian is in the country to witness the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
Even though the Egyptian national team is participating in the tournament, the presence of Mr Sbaey, who calls himself ''African Fan,'' is not only to support the Pharaohs in their quest to annex the cup for the unprecedented sixth time but to add to the growing excitement of the game.
The passionate football fan has been to five World Cup tournaments since 1990, including those held in Italy to Germany and South Korea/Japan.
He has also attended five African Cup of Nations, including the current one in Ghana. Since his arrival in the country last week, Sbaey has already been to the Essipon, Accra and Kumasi stadia all due to his passion for the game.
He was spotted at the Tamale stadium last Sunday in the second group 'D' match between Tunisia and South African busily stringing together his Aud and dancing along with the excited crowd who were treated to a thrilling game that ended 3-1 in favour of the former.
The father of two, whose wife passed away about 14 years ago in Egypt, intimated that the motivation for his presence at major tournaments in Africa and elsewhere in the world is not only his love for the game but also ''to contribute to the euphoria that normally generates at such tournaments to make people happy and united.''
He, however, disclosed to the surprise of this reporter that he did not enjoy any sponsorship deal from any corporate body but personally finances his own trips.
As a result of inadequate funds, ''I am not able to afford hotel bills at most tournament venues; you would not believe it but sometimes I sleep in the open and in vehicles all because of my love for the growth and love football.''
Mr Sbaey who is a musician by profession and earns his living from his only ''companion,'' the Aud, has therefore appealed for financial assistance to enable him continue his ''crusade'' of uniting African through football support.
Mr. Sbaey, who was in Tamale town central on Monday, was easily identified by residents who mobbed him every everywhere he visited.
''Eei look at the Egyptian who appears on television at every major football tournament,'' was how Maria Alhassan exclaimed when he encountered Mr Sbaey around a GOIL filling station.
The elated African fan described the people of Tamale and Ghana as very warm and that, ''I am very happy here, wish I could stay longer to continue to enjoy this wonderful reception.''
On the tournament itself, he has predicted that, ''Ghana would win the tournament for the fifth time following the quality of their players.''
Story by Zakaria Alhassan